His wounds still showed on the surface, scabbed over, but present. She felt a small sharp pang go through her, and reveled in it. There'd been a time not long ago when the feeling hadn't been there. Strange how one could miss pain.
He broke off, tucked the pendant away after passing some coin over to the smiling man. From what Kaitlyn could tell, Derek had just gotten swindled; from the look on his face as he turned toward her, he knew and just didn't care.
She waited a moment, then fell into step next to him. "Derek, I thought we might talk."
Derek glanced down at her, then looked again. "Of course," he said, gesturing to the side. Benches sat facing a fountain, jumping stone fish forever trying to get to the top. Fitting, she thought.
They sat, neither saying a word.
"I've looked," Derek said at last, the frustration boiling out of him. "I swear to you, I have. Apparently, I can only find creatures that want to be found; can only kill-"
"Peace," she said, reaching over and putting a hand on his arm. His muscle tensed, like he was preparing to be struck. Fair, considering their last meeting. "I know that Dravin still lives. I would be lying if I said it didn't bother me, but that's not why I wanted to see you." Kaitlyn swiveled towared him, her hand staying on his arm. "I was unfair to you. I spoke from a place of darkness and pain, and I'd already begun cutting myself off from those around me. I know that you care. You cared enough to go to Simon, though I can't imagine how it cost you."
Distant pain echoed in Derek's eyes, and he looked away. "It wasn't a comfort."
"It was to me, after I came to myself. You're a good man, Derek. A bit of a fool at times, but still."
That made him smile, though it was sad. "I'll remember that, or try. I have to take everyone back today. You, too, unless you want to stay here longer. Sel might be thankful of the company. Journey... he never came. No one can tell why, or where he is. Not even the Waymakers here."
"It's not the first time he's taken a trip."
"No, I suppose not."
Kaitlyn took a breath, then stood and pulled him up. Gently, she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him, tightly. Again, he tensed, but this time he relaxed against her, and hugged her back. "I should have told you this then," she said, soft enough that her words were almost lost in splashing of the fountain. "Cady didn't reject you, not truly. The future you offered was less than the one Braiden does. She choose the palace instead of the exile."
He didn't answer for long enough that Kaitlyn almost thought he didn't hear the words. "I know," he said, finally. "I won't lie and say that I'm over it, but I will be. In time." Chuckling, he pulled away and grinned down at her. "At least, I'm over it enough that I won't drop him into the ocean on accident."
She laughed. "I'll let you go to it, then. And Derek, should you need a haven, or a hug, my door is always open to you and yours."
"Thank you. If... if you don't mind me asking, what changed? What took the anger and pain away?"
"Oh, Derek. It's not gone, not really. I think it'll always be a part of me, a part of my future. It just doesn't need to be the only thing I feel, or the only thing in my heart. I still miss him, especially at night, and I wish he was here to be the father my son needs."
"Does he have a name?"
"Not yet. I'll name him on his first Naming Day. You could come, if you'd like."
"I'd like that." He smiled and hugged her again. "Thank you, Kaitlyn. And I still haven't given up. I'll find Dravin, and I'll end him. Like I promised."
The group that gathered by the beach wasn't a small one, especially considering that one man was going to whisk them away. Aislin stood, noticing the brittle texture that still existed among some in the group. Amanda stayed near Toby and the three chattering children, and while she laughed, it never reached her eyes - eyes that stayed elsewhere.
She followed the gaze, then rolled her eyes.
The plan, from what she'd heard, was to get Cady and Braiden back to Katar, then take the next group to Shallon City. From what Derek said, he could only teleport a number of times a day, and it changed every day. Today, it was twice - who knew tomorrow. Aislin'd get back to the Tower, but she wasn't in a hurry to do so.
"Alright, everyone get together," Derek said, his voice calm and measured. At the sound of it, her stomach tightened enough to make her scowl. When the power swept her off her feet, the scowl stayed.
The Helminite camp had changed since the last time Sam had visited. It was larger, somehow, and from here, she could see that while some progress had been made on the ruins, it was slow and slight. Something must be delaying them.
Derek's shoulders sagged a little, and he looked as tired as he must have felt. "Alright folks, end of the line today. Stick around here until someone tells you where they want you to sleep."
Aislin tilted her head. "You're not staying?"
"No, not in camp. I'll be out, a little ways. Close, but..."
Toby snorted, rolled back on his heels. "We'll stick with you, then. Don't need a tent, anyhow. Not when you've got feathers."
"I don't have feathers," Amanda pointed out.
"Don't you? Huh."
Their arrival pulled attention, and it wasn't long before a Helminite approached Sam, and saluted. "Welcome back, Chosen Samantha. Do you have a message to dispatch?"